Iowa Freedom Riders form independent Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission after organizer resigns from city commission

Following the resignation of Ad Hoc Truth & Reconciliation Commissioner Raneem Hamad, also an Iowa Freedom Riders organizer, the IFR has created a new community driven truth and reconciliation commission to seek racial justice and reparations in Iowa City.


Katie Goodale

Sisters Raneem Hamad (left) and Lujayn Hamad (right) address the crowd during the Say Their Names rally on the Pentacrest on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Iowa City community members gathered to remember George Floyd, Ahmed Arbury, Yassin Mohamed and others. Money was collected during the event which went in donation to a vehicle procession carrying protesters going to Minneapolis. The Hamad sisters were among the protesters driving to Minneapolis.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

The Iowa Freedom Riders announced Friday that they will be forming The Peoples Truth and Reckoning commission, a day after Iowa Freedom Riders organizer Raneem Hamad resigned from Iowa City’s Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Hamad wrote in her resignation letter that she had hoped to uplift the ideals of the Iowa Freedom Riders within the commission.

“The sad but unavoidable fact is that the TRC is limited to telling truths that the Council wants to hear,” Hamad wrote. “These are not the truths that I and others from IFR wanted to focus on when we originally demanded a TRC in June 2020…There is no longer any IFR representation or participation with the TRC.”

The Iowa Freedom Riders is a racial justice and liberation group formed in the summer of 2020 that organized protests in Iowa City throughout the summer, which led the Iowa City City Council to pass a 17-point racial justice resolution, with one point being the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In her letter, Hamad wrote that resigning from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was extremely difficult for her to do given her lifelong fight for racial justice, truth, and reconciliation within Iowa City.

Hamad wrote that while serving on the commission, she faced continuous disrespect, personal attacks, and emotional abuse.

“While the abuse I faced was intolerable, I have borne it and would continue to do so if there was still a chance of achieving anything like IFR’s vision of an independent, BIPOC community-led, transformative justice process through the current TRC,” Hamad said.

Truth and Reconciliation Vice Chair Amel Ali said Hamad’s resignation is one that will greatly impact the commission.

“I think it’s obviously a tremendous loss to the commission,” Ali said. “I feel horrible for how she feels that she was treated, and I completely understand though why she didn’t want to be a part of this anymore.”

Ali said Hamad has been an extremely insightful member of the commission, providing a unique perspective on the topics at hand.

“She’s shed so much light and brought such a different perspective,” Ali said. “She’s done so much to teach me a lot of different types of things as it pertains to abolition and transformative and restorative justice.”

Truth and Reconciliation Chair Mohamed Traore commended Hamad’s work in a tweet on Thursday.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has now lost four of its original nine members, the first three resignations being former Chair Royceann Porter, Vice Chair T’Shailyn Harrington, and Commissioner Tony Currin.

The first three resignations followed an increase in internal conflict within the commission and a proposed no-confidence vote to remove Porter as the chair.

Since the first three resignations, the Iowa City City Council voted to implement a monthlong suspension for the commission.

During this time, the council is reviewing current applicants for the commission and plans to appoint new commissioners by April 6, with a planned lifting of the suspension and a joint meeting between the council and the commission on April 15.

This suspension garnered mostly negative comments at the City Council meeting and has prompted the Iowa Freedom Riders to form and create the new Peoples Truth & Reckoning Commission, an independent board with a similar charge to the city’s commission.

The Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission

An Iowa Iowa Freedom Riders press release on Friday stated that on April 15, when the city’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is set to be reinstated, the Iowa Freedom Riders will launch their own Peoples Truth & Reckoning Commission.

“The Peoples TRC starts with the recognition that the present political system has failed the most marginalized citizens and it is time for people to claim our own power back,” the IFR said. “We will not be given justice from those in power. We will create it with our own voices and efforts.”

The release stated that The Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission is a dynamic and evolving idea, with the structure and content being crafted by participants in gatherings and sessions beginning after the April 15 establishment of convocation.

The Iowa Freedom Riders said that the commission will include both their own members as well as individuals and organizations from the Iowa City community who are focused on pursuing and achieving racial justice.

The release said that community members who have been victims of systemic racism will create and lead the process.

“The Peoples TRC will pursue the real truth of victims of racial injustice, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the Council or other power structures in Iowa City,” the release stated. “The Peoples TRC will seek to understand, express, and validate the truth of victims in a series of reckonings that will be created by victims themselves.”

The Iowa Freedom Riders said this commission will largely focus on truth-telling, investigation, reparations, healing, artistic exploration, and education.

The release said proceedings of The Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission will be available to the public, including both the archives of the sessions as well as livestreaming of the sessions.

As of right now, the commission will be funded through people-driven crowdfunding as well as donor funding.

The Iowa Freedom Riders also said that public funding may be sought from the City Council due to its commitment to fund racial justice efforts, as long as it is done under terms that do not compromise the commission’s independent vision.

“We will not realize our vision of justice alone, but in solidarity with our community,” The release said. “From IFR and the forthcoming Peoples Truth and Reckoning Commission, we see you, we love you, and remember, we have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Ali said she believes the Ad Hoc Truth & Reconciliation Commission shares similar goals and hopes as the IFR, but both groups have varying respective approaches on how to achieve those goals.

“I genuinely think we have the same goals as IFR, I just don’t think that the idea of how to get there is the same,” Ali said. “Our vision of how we’re going to get to that goal is not the same, which is fine and understandable but I think our end goal of what a perfect society would be is the same.”